Richard MacLean & Associates, LLC

Can Anyone Be an Environmental Manager?

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Richard MacLean & Associates, LLC

This column explores the current condition of the EHS profession - and raises a number of troubling questions that have yet to be openly addressed within our professional ranks.  The problem was summed up in a headline I saw recently saying, 'The EHS profession has skidded down the food chain.'  In the jargon of marketing, the environmental profession has no identifiable brand and barrier for entry.  Anyone can be appointed the organization's 'Environmental Manager.'

Can we really call EHS management a 'profession' in the same way that law, medicine, engineering, and nursing clearly are professions? We may consider ourselves genuine professionals and respect those individuals who pass muster with our list of certifying organizations. In the grand scheme of things, however, the way 'pocket protector guys' are treated within organizations reflects little acknowledgment of what it takes to do a truly professional job. There is something fundamentally wrong with the environmental profession and how it is valued - or not valued - by the public, governments, and business management.

Customer comments


    environment manager must be master's degree holder in environmental engineering/sciences etc. because this is puerly professional degree for environmetalist. other people/degree holder do their job in their field/profession

  2. By Mohammad Khalid Mir on

    Environmental Manager must be master degree holder in Environmental Management (MBA) or Environmental Engineering or Sciences. it's a purely technical job and without degree and experience man is nothing in this profession.

  3. By Emil Chong on

    Thanks so much for putting in words what I've been thinking about over the last decade since I've been in the environmental field, more specifically in the area of environmental impact assessment. I couldn't agree more. And I thought the environmental managers in Asia were the only ones who were suffering from this problem. I'd love to see more articles on this topic and will contribute my two cents if I can.

  4. By Recardo Mieux on

    Being a young professional in the field it really makes you wonder about the next step in terms of certification. I have a BSc and MSc but after reading this article I believe that any further studies that I do must be in management or engineering. I must say you have answered a question that has been on my mind for a while now. Thanks a mil!

  5. By Gary Long on

    With more than 30 years working in EHS profession I can say with conviction, it has never been held in high esteem. There are certifications, (I am CSP, CIH) and licensures for things like water treatment, wastewater treatment, asbestos management, and lead based paint to name a few. Thus a comprehensive certification for "EHS Management" would be difficult to conceive but not impossible. Just professional engineers have fields of specialty, environmental, health and safety professionals have the same as mentioned earlier. The key, I believe, lies in the regulatory framework in which we work. Professionals that treat drinking water or wastewater are required to be licensed and their signature is required on all regulatory reporting. On the other hand air permits reports or hazardous waste reports must be signed by the highest ranking official at the facility, without regard to qualifications. In this case the intent clear, that being to push accountability to the highest level in the organization. A tack taken by EPA many years ago to force company managers to "take the rap" if the facility is not in compliance and not the "EHS manager. That said, in order to effect a change in "respect for the profession", regulations must be changed that cause the licensing of professionals in the management of EHS matters. But, that is not likely in the near future with political situation in DC. Maybe we should consider the European system that uses the management system as a means to drive the process. However, I am not sure how this might improve the plight of the EHS manager.

  6. By Michael Jones on

    Great article and quite thorough. Here's a hint to partially fixing the problem. Professional acronyms that are well-recognized by the public, such as MD, JD, and RN, are tied to education requirements and not certification by some organization. I don't want to sound elitist, but a person just getting into the field and wanting to become a true EHS professional really needs an advanced degree. Also, I want to support the statement in the article that having multiple certifying organizations that provide titles such as "Registered this" and "Certified that" are only making the situation worse when it comes to outside recognition.